Key points about cucumbers
- Hardiness: Very tender warm-season annual. Frost will injure top growth; needs warm weather to grow.
- Planting: Seed directly in the garden after danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed, or use plants grown indoors 3 weeks prior to planting time. Plant a second crop around July 1. Handle transplants gently and disturb the root system as little as possible. If direct sowing, thin seedlings by cutting excess plants with scissors rather than by pulling. Full sun requires direct light at least 6 hours/day; prefers 8 - 10 hours/day.
- Days to maturity: 50 - 65 from seed.
- Spacing: 12" in-row x 48" - 72" between rows; or plant in a hill (two to three plants per hill).
- Fertilizer needs: Moderate requirement for nutrients, either from soil organic matter or fertilizers. Side-dress one week after blossoming begins and, if needed, 3 weeks later. Refer to Fertilizing Vegetables for details.
- Approximate yield (per 10-foot row): 8 to 10 pounds.
Growing and care of cucumbers
- Cultivars are available for slicing and pickle types, dwarf-vined or bush types, Armenian, and Asian types. Burpless cucumbers are long and slender with tender skin. Through plant breeding, the bitterness associated with the burp has been removed.
- Cucumbers are susceptible to a variety of diseases and pests, especially cucumber beetles, bacterial wilt, and powdery mildew. Our Key to Common Problems of Cucumbers lists these problems and how to manage them. As a first step in growing cucumbers, we recommend selecting disease-resistant varieties from among the list provided by Cornell University.
- Members of the Cucurbitaceae family have separate male and female flowers on each plant. For the flower to develop into a fruit, pollen must be carried by bees from male flowers, on the same plant or on different plants, to the female flower (the one with the tiny fruit below the flower). It takes 8 to 12 bee visits per flower to ensure pollination and fertilization of the ovule, sufficient to form a straight, full-size fruit. Poor cucumber set is common when bee activity is low. Avoid using pesticides during the bloom period.
- Regarding pollination needs, there are three basic types:
- Standard or monoecious — First 10 to 20 flowers are male. For every female flower, which produces the fruit, 10 to 20 male flowers are produced.
- Gynoecious — Have only female flowers; some just have a greater proportion of female to male flowers. These plants tend to bear fruit earlier with a more concentrated set. Standard seeds are added to the seed packet to ensure pollination.
- Parthenocarpic — All female flowers and seedless; fruit is produced without pollination. If this type of cucumber is planted near other varieties, pollination will occur and seeds will form. The seed is expensive.
- Trellising: Most cucumber types and cultivars produce long, vigorous vines. Training vines on a trellis or fence along the edge of the garden will prevent this and also lift the fruit off the soil. Plant four to five seeds per foot, thinning to a 9- to 12-inch spacing when plants are 4- to 5-inches high.
- Benefits of trellising include:
- Increased total yields and yield per square foot;
- Longer and straighter fruit (easier for bees to access flowers);
- No soil-borne fruit rot since vines dry off faster;
- No walking on vines, and
- Easier to pick and a longer harvesting period.
- Watering - Keep the root zone moist by watering deeply and regularly during dry periods. Water more frequently when fruits begin to develop.
- Weeding - Remove all young weed seedlings by hand or with a hoe and use a mulch laid around plants to keep weed seeds from germinating.
- Pickling cucumbers should be 2 to 4 inches long.
- Slicing cucumbers should be 5 to 8 inches long depending on the variety.
- Remove by turning cucumbers parallel to the vine and giving a quick snap. This prevents vine damage and results in a clean break.
- Working in the vines when leaves are wet may spread diseases. Wait until after morning dew or rain evaporates.
Storage and preservation
- Medium cool (45° - 50°F), moist (95% RH) conditions.